THEY WILL ASK thee as to what they should spend on others. Say: "Whatever of your wealth you spend shall [first] be for your parents, and for the near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer; and whatever good you do, verily, God has full knowledge thereof." - Al-Baqarah (2:215)

Monday, 31 December 2012

Friday, 28 December 2012

Final house visits for the year?

Done with back-to-school shopping and delivery of bicycles, I started getting text messages and calls from some of my clients informing me about the amount needed to be paid to their children’s various schools.

Some had given me the list of payments much earlier when I brought them shopping. Most of those, I’d bank the amount direct into their bank accounts. 2 of my clients staying in Ipoh, just informed me recently about the workbooks, fees etc, so yep, since I was done with the shopping part, this week I decided to visit them at home and settle whatever amount needed by their children when they register for the new schooling term next week.

Yesterday I went to visit Aini. Coincidentally her eldest daughter who just registered at a polytechnic earlier this month, was on 1 week holiday and so she was home, just 2 weeks after registration. Good opportunity for me to find out how she’s doing at her new place. Thank goodness, she seemed to love her new life and the course she’s taking at the polytechnic. At least she’s showing interest in her studies now, as compared to earlier when she was doing form 6.

Aini’s 2 younger sons aren’t doing too well in school. They seem to be more interested in sports. The 2nd child, who sat for his PMR recently, obtained 1B, 4C, 2D and 1E. But he does show interest in vocational skills and had submitted his application to join a vocational school in form 4. We will just have to wait and see if his application is accepted. Meanwhile when school reopens next week, he will just have to go back to his old school.

While I was at Aini’s house, a text message came in from Zainab, asking if we still have enough budget to cover for workbooks and other school payments for her 2 young daughters. Both of the girls are still in primary school. Since Zainab said this week she works on night shifts, I decided to give them a visit this afternoon.

The younger girl, fondly called Adik, was already waiting at the door when I got there at 3 pm as promised. And she immediately shouted, “IBUUUUUUU!! MAKCIK DAH SAMPAIIII!!!”

Glad to note that the older girl, fondly known as Kakak, looked happy and healthy. She used to be hospitalised from time to time due to her kidney problems. According to Zainab, of late Kakak had been doing quite well health-wise. Am so happy to hear that. Hopefully she can now pay more attention in school instead of having to miss school whenever she’s hospitalised.

With the 2 visits this week, I think I am done with this year’s rounds of house visits. More visits to be done once school reopens. Meanwhile, I think I will just sit back and relax until next year… :)

Friday, 21 December 2012

Delivery of bicycles & another round of back-to-school shopping

Monday 17th December:

I had promised the guy from the bicycle shop I’d be collecting 2 more bicycles from his shop this morning. 1 bicycle had already been delivered to Ika last week. The additional 2 bicycles were to be delivered to Mas, whose 2 primary school children need the bicycles to go to school as Mas herself is always unwell and may not be fit enough to send them to school on her motorbike. I wanted to send the bicycles to Mas on Tuesday morning, but since the bicycle shop only opens after 10.30 am, I decided to get the 2 bicycles from the shop on Monday. So yeah, the bicycles had to spend a night in my Kenari before being delivered to the intended recipients.

Tuesday 18th December:

Since the address Mas gave me just indicated the name of the kampong and no specific house number, Mas told me to give her a call once I reach the Dewan Serbaguna at her kampong. Thank goodness the kampong is listed in my GPS, and so I wasn’t really worried about getting to the kampong itself (have GPS will travel!). My only worry was if Mas couldn’t give reliable instructions to get to her house once I reach the place.

The Dewan Serbaguna itself was just along the main road, so there wasn’t any problem finding it. The problem was when I called her to ask for further directions, although I told her I was coming from town A, she just said, “Akak kena jalan depan lagi sikit. Nanti saya tunggu tepi jalan.” “Kalau dari arah saya datang ni sebelah kiri ke kanan?” “Kiri”, she said. I drove slowly further up, and looked for her, but nope. Didn’t see her. Then she called, “Akak, akak bawak kereta Kenari ya?” Apparently she was on the right side of the road where I was coming from, and when she said I was to go further up, I was supposed to turn back. Her place was before the Dewan Serbaguna. Her earlier instructions would be appropriate if I had come from town B.

I then asked if I turned back, which side of the road would she be… and she said, “Kanan.” Turned back, slowly drove, and saw her on the left side of the road. She said kanan because she was facing where I was coming from and so my kiri became her kanan

But ah well, I did make it to her house and finally delivered the 2 bicycles for her children’s use.

Wednesday 19th December:

Another round of back-to-school shopping. Wait, didn’t I mention in my earlier posting that I was DONE with this year’s back-to-school posting?? Well yeah, I was kinda hoping all the other clients whom I did not take shopping would be able to buy first the schooling necessities and we’d reimburse them later once they pass us the receipts. But there was one lady, Jamilah, a new client during the year, who said she couldn’t afford to buy anything yet. She stays quite far from the 3 places where I had brought a few families shopping earlier, which was why I didn’t ask her to join the earlier groups. But since she needed to come to Ipoh on Wednesday for her hospital appointment, I told her to bring along her 3 children, and after she’s done with her appointment, I’d take them shopping for their schooling needs.

But Jamilah was one of the last to see the doctor that day, and by the time I got to the hospital (after I had my lunch and zohor prayer) and I called her, she had just been called into the room to see the doctor. Wow, I can imagine how restless her children were, having to wait there since before 9 am! Her eldest son, 16, came by motorbike, to cut down on cost… otherwise the bus fare from her place would be RM20 per person.

Brought them direct to Mydin’s, but knowing that they hadn’t eaten anything since morning (by then it was almost 3 pm), I took them for lunch first. Once their tummies were filled, then only I took them up to buy their schooling needs. By the time we were done, it was already 5.10 pm. Initially we were thinking of packing everything nicely first into their newly bought school bags so that it would be easier for them to carry the things on the bus when travelling back home, but the last available bus to their place was at 6 pm. We didn’t want to take any risk, it was after office hours, we needed ample time in case we got caught in a traffic jam going to the bus station. So we just chucked everything into my car and while I drove, told the boys to put everything into the 3 school bags. And yep, they managed to do so before we reached the bus station at 5.30 pm.

Thursday 20th December:

Early morning around 7 am, a text message came in from Maya. All of Maya’s children (all girls) are under our sponsorship programme and so Maya does report to me on the progress of her children’s schooling. Earlier on when I brought them shopping, Maya told me that her 2nd daughter became top student among her form one schoolmates at a fully residential school. I was impressed. This time she texted me to inform me of her eldest daughter’s PMR results. The girl scored 7A 1B. Alhamdulillah! News like these always warm the heart. They motivate me to keep on helping these families, especially involving the children’s education…

Monday, 17 December 2012

Kenari, the transformer…

I must say my faithful old Kenari had served me very well ever since I joined Buddies. Not only had it helped me in my visits, it had really been a “multipurpose” vehicle in its true sense.

Ferrying my clients and their children either to the hospital, to go back-to-school shopping, or to attend whatever functions we organise… (sorry, no pics of clients!).

Delivering groceries to poor families…

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Carrying materials for our exhibitions…

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Collecting toys from donors to be given to the children of our clients…

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Delivering bicycles to the children who needs them….

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And once even delivering an old heavy mechanical sewing machine to a client who could put it to better use…

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Ahh… I so love my Kenari. It had served me well…

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

More on the children’s schooling

I may be done with the back-to-school shopping for 48 children last week, but that doesn’t mean I am done with matters pertaining to my many children’s schooling.

There are still a few other families who had agreed to buy first and submit their receipts to me later so I can reimburse them. Then there are the lists of workbooks/fees that need to be paid to the various schools when school reopens in January. And there are those who may need bicycles as their transportation to school. Not forgetting, I will also have to list down the amount needed for those who need to pay monthly bus/van fares to school.

So yeah, still lots of stuff for me to do before and after school reopens. I’ve already booked 3 bicycles from the bicycle shop I usually go to when any of my children need bicycles. One had already been delivered to Ika today. The other 2 bicycles is expected to be delivered next week.

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Some of my clients have already given me the list of workbooks to be bought and other payments that need to be paid to the children’s various schools. Not cheap, from what I’ve seen so far. There’s one primary school which included a “program kecemerlangan” charging RM200 for each year 6 student and RM85 for those in years 4 and 5. Add in whatever else that need to be paid to the school and each year 6 student end up having to pay over RM300 while students in years 4 and 5 have to pay close to RM200. Some schools require students to buy scientific calculators and track bottoms from the school instead of buying on thier own outside.

Even average-income earners usually would find their budget rather tight at the beginning of each school year. Imagine a single mother who works as an assistant at a food stall and has 4 school-going children…

That was why in the first place, we came up with our Children Education Fund and later followed by the Education Sponsorship for Children Programme.

Ah well, I’d better now list down everything properly in my computer so that I’d have a record of all the payments made & need to be made!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Back-to-school shopping : DONE!

Been spending the past three days doing more and more of back-to-school shopping… on Thursday for 4 families of 11 children, on Friday for 6 families of 19 children, and today for 6 more families of 12 children. All that plus the 2 families I brought shopping earlier on Monday and Wednesday, means I have brought altogether 48 children shopping for their schooling needs within this one week.

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Total damages so far: RM9,835.10

The above amount does not include claims from a few other families which had not been submitted to me. You see, a few families agreed to buy first and claim later. After this I will need to start collecting the various children’s list of fees/workbooks etc which they need to pay when school reopens in January.

Taking a few families shopping together, I didn’t really have the opportunity to find out the details of each child’s progress in school. I know some of these children aren’t doing too well in school. With these kids, I am more interested to know which area their interest lies so we can help pave the way for them to take up suitable vocational courses.

But I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that one of our sponsored children who entered a fully residential school at the beginning of this year, came out tops among her batch-mates in her school exam. Wonderful! I hope she will continue to excel in her studies.

Whatever it is, I think I am done with this year’s back-to-school shopping. My next mission is buy bicycles for a few children needing bicycles to go to school. I’ve already got sponsors for the bicycles… just announce on my FB wall and within an hour I got more than enough sponsors.

Meantime, just let me get a short rest and recover from bektuskulitis shopingsakania that I am suffering from right now.

*For the uninitiated, that’s my “medical” term for back-to-school shopping sakan…

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Back-to-schook shopping 2 : Sofie’s children

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After a one day break from back-to-school shopping on Tuesday because of the exhibition in conjunction with World Aids Day in Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun, Ipoh, today I continued with round 2 of shopping, this time with Sofie’s 2 youngest children, Ika and Saiful.

It had been quite some time since I last went to visit them at home, so this time I figured I might as well just bring the 2 of them instead of bringing them together with other kids from a few other families like I had planned earlier. Besides, Saiful needed to get a new pair of glasses done, so it was more practical if I brought them out separately.

Told the kids I’d fetch them at 10 am, when I got there 10 minutes early, they were ready. Even their Aunt Rozi was home, but she didn’t come along shopping with us as she was actually on MC. Without the aunt, I had to help them choose the schooling necessities, especially their uniforms and shoes. (usually when I bring the children out shopping, I’d just let their mothers/guardians help their children choose and I’d just pay) Ika and Saiful weren’t really the fussy type, so there wasn’t really any problem in that department, although I had to keep reminding them of what else to buy.

“Apa lagi belum ambik?”

“Dah, semua dah ada.”

“Pencil colour dah ambik?”

“Eh, ha’ah, lupa!”

We finished shopping before noon, then I brought them for lunch before we headed to the optical shop where Saiful did his glasses before. And why on earth did he have to make a new pair? You see, he wore his glasses while playing football in school and while trying to catch the ball (he was the goalkeeper) he knocked the goalpost and broke the frame into 2! His aunt went to a few optical shops trying to get new frames without having to replace the lenses, but all said they didn’t have suitable frames. He’d have to make a new pair and with the high power (950/750), they all said they’d have to charge RM500 at least. And how much did I manage to get the new pair for Saiful today? RM400.

That done, I brought them home. Ika said she had to go for tuition at 2 pm. Tuition? Yep, their next door neighbour offers very cheap tuition for children within the neighbourhood at RM8 per month (she just wants to help the kids I think, RM8 charged just as a token amount), but for Ika and Saiful, the lady gives them FREE tuition. I guess, knowing the children’s situation, she just wanted to help them. May Allah bless her!

Since I was there, I figured I might as well get some updates on their older brothers… the eldest, Azlan, now doing a mechanical course in IKM, and Azman, the culinary boy, remember?

Apparently Azman did not complete his course at the culinary school. He had been using his Tabung Kemahiran loan to spend like a rich man’s kid. And making things worse, his aunt (the one who had earlier spread to the whole kampong about Sofie being HIV+) kept on calling him, asking him to stay with her. And so he did. After failing to pay his hostel fees for a few months and the admin of the school kept reminding him about it, he just simply left. Just like that. What a waste! What he still doesn’t realise until now is that HE is the one who loses. Not anyone else.

Azman is so bigheaded he even uses “aku” and “engkau” to talk to his Aunt Rozi. Rozi has given up on him. If he prefers to stay with the aunt who had caused so much suffering for his mother when she was still alive, then there wasn’t much Rozi could do. Azlan, the older brother, tried to advise him, but they ended up fighting. Even Saiful and Ika got pissed off with Azman.

As for Azlan, according to Rozi, he seems to enjoy the mechanical course he’s doing now. As a matter of fact, even though he is just about to complete only his first semester of his 2-year certificate level course, he is already considering going on to diploma level. Good for him! I hope he will succeed.

I guess we can’t win them all. For the moment there’s not much I can do about Azman but to hope and pray that he will one day realise his  mistakes and change before it’s too late. As for Saiful, he will be sitting for his PMR next year, and since his interest also lies in the mechanical line, he is hoping to join a vocational school in form 4.

Ika is still in primary school, not doing too bad in her studies (she was 9th in class for the last school exam). I hope she will continue to see the importance of education for her future…

Monday, 3 December 2012

Back-to-school shopping begins…

My back-to-school shopping for this year began today with Fuzi’s family.

Initially I wanted to bring a few families to go shopping together. Well yes, I am still planning to do that this coming Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but since Fuzi had called me earlier last week to tell me about her son’s schooling problem, I decided to visit them today and take them out shopping while at it. Besides, her 2 youngest kids were the ones who got themselves “lost” during our Family Day at Lost World of Tambun 2 years ago. Taking them together with other kids, they may end up getting themselves lost at the shopping complex!! True enough, today when I took them shopping, the 2 boys freely wandered about and were out of sight quite a number of times.

Anyway, Fuzi’s eldest, Wina, who tagged along today, just came to help choose uniforms, shoes etc for her younger siblings. She will be sitting for her last SPM paper this Thursday (although SPM is over for most SPM candidates, Wina still has a Econs paper to sit for).

Fuzi’s youngest, Iwan, is due to go to standard one next year. But there is one major problem…

Those who had followed Fuzi’s story may remember that Fuzi, an Indonesian lady, had married a Malaysian guy in southern Thailand. Fuzi, being uneducated, and naive, had all the while believed that her marriage had been registered and that there’d be no problems whatsoever.

All her problems came much later… after her husband passed away. Somebody broke into her house and raped her, resulting in Fuzi getting pregnant. It was during this pregnancy that Fuzi was diagnosed HIV+ and Fuzi innocently thought she must have been infected by the rapist. Precautions were taken to avoid transmission from mother to child, and so the youngest boy, Iwan, was spared from infection.

Then when all her children were tested, her 4th son (her son with her late husband) was found to be HIV+. So Fuzi did not get HIV from the rapist but from her late husband! It was only then Fuzi mentioned that her late husband used to visit southern Thailand quite frequently. Sigh!

Problematic enough? Not quite. Later when her eldest daughter Wina, needed to do her MyKad after reaching 12 years of age, they ran into more problems. With their father no longer around and Fuzi herself still an Indonesian without PR status, the authorities needed proof that these children did indeed have a Malaysian father. Although their birth cert indicated so, Fuzi had to come out with a legitimate marriage cert. It was only then that Fuzi knew her marriage cert was illegitimate (issued in Thailand and never registered in Malaysia). Fuzi would have to get her marriage cert legalised before any of her children could be issued with a Malaysian identity card. That wasn’t an easy task… getting to legalise a marriage cert issued in Thailand when the Malaysian partner was no longer around.

It was a long process Fuzi had to go through with the help of a woman activist who sympathised. I couldn’t help her then as I didn’t have any contacts in the related agencies, neither did I know the correct procedures. Once her marriage cert was legalised, her children (by then her second child had also reached 12 years of age) had no problem getting their MyKad done.

So, no more problems for Fuzi? No way. Remember her youngest son Iwan was born out-of-wedlock? The boy was not fathered by the same Malaysian father of his other 4 siblings. Even Fuzi doesn’t know the identity of the guy who raped her. As such, Iwan’s citizenship will have to follow his mother’s… Indonesian.

Now the boy is 6, going on 7. Off Fuzi went to register Iwan for school next year. She was aware that Iwan, being a non-citizen, may have to pay additional fees if she wanted to put him in a Malaysian government school. I already have a donor willing to sponsor the boy’s schooling expenses.

But just last week she got the reply from the Education Department saying that her application to register the boy as a non-citizen student at a government school was rejected. Reason given… “dokumen meragukan”.

I am not sure what documents were submitted by Fuzi when she submitted the application earlier to the Education Dept. I think there shouldn’t be too much of a problem if she has PR status. But even her application for PR status is facing problems at the Immigrations Dept because her husband is no longer around.

Adoii… pusing-pusing problem balik…

Any readers out there with any suggestions as to how to solve this problem?

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Back to active mode… soon…

I’ve been rather inactive for the past 2 months to take care of my mother, hence the lack of postings in October & November due to lack of activities.

My mother passed away peacefully on Saturday, 24th November 2012. Having given my full attention to her for the past 2 months, I have no regrets.

With that episode over, I intend to get myself back into active mode for my voluntary work. Will kick off with the following exhibition in conjunction with World Aids Day (Buddies will be working hand in hand with HRPB, Ipoh).

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After that, will get to back-to-school shopping mode for the many children under our sponsorship and CEF. So hopefully there will be more updates in this blog soon…

Friday, 16 November 2012

Updates

I just realised it has been almost a month since I last updated my blog. Having to pay more attention to my bed-ridden mother, I had to reduce my voluntary activities, and thus, not much to tell in this blog. I even had to cancel last month’s Board meeting since I couldn’t leave my mother while my vice-chair was overseas and so he couldn’t chair the meeting either.

Anyway, reducing my involvement in Buddies activities didn’t stop clients from calling me or sending text messages with all sorts of questions and favours….

1. Rosnah and Mrs K asked if I could lend them some money. I didn’t even bother to reply. They should know my answer by now.

2. Aini’s daughter (the one who had been doing form 6) called to inform me that she was finally offered a place at a polytechnic and is excited to accept it since she’s no longer interested in doing form 6. She will be reporting in December.

3. 2 ladies who just became my clients this year asked if their children could get any sort of financial help for their education. Both are non-working single mothers with a few schooling children, I had already included them in my list of families needing help from our Children Education Fund.

4. A sister of a long lost client called asking if I could help. Seems her sister (a PLHIV) kept on wishing that she’d die as soon as possible as she thinks she is a burden to the family.

No reports from clinic duties as I had missed 2 clinic duties already to take care of my mother….

It will be December soon where we will need to see to the back-to-school expenses of the children, if I am not able to set aside some time for that, I’d better start thinking of delegating some of the work to other volunteers, even if it involves children of my own clients.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Updates here and there

Having to reduce some of my time for voluntary work ever since I need to take care of my mother at home, looks like there will be less updates on this blog. But I will still update from time to time…

1. We had an in-house training for our volunteers on Tuesday night. The topic was on dealing with the death of our clients. The topic covered some of the procedures and guidelines used by the relevant authorities in handling deaths of HIV infected persons. While the procedures basically involve health personnel, it is good for our volunteers’ knowledge so they’d know what to expect when any of their clients die… what problems may arise from those guidelines etc. The training also involved briefing the volunteers on following up with the families of the deceased clients.

2. We have been selected again to receive a grant from Yayasan Sultan Azlan Shah this year. This will be the 3rd consecutive time we will be receiving the grant, together with quite a number of other societies and homes. With donations being rather slow this year (last year had been a good year for us though in terms of donations received), and more and more children getting help for their schooling, we can probably put aside some of the amount received to our Children Education Fund. Year end school holidays are coming soon anyway, and soon enough, we will need to bring the children to shop for their back-to-school necessities.

3. I will need to really schedule some visits to the homes of a few clients for our Sponsorship Assessment visits. There are some new clients in need of monthly help for their schooling children, the expenses of which aren’t covered by our Children Education Fund, so whenever necessary, we try to get individual sponsors for these children. Hopefully I will be able to slot in some time for the visits, and if need be, to look for interested sponsors. Usually I’d just broadcast on my FB page… there’d usually be some interested kind-hearted persons from there…

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Another round of clinic duty and house visits

I was on clinic duty again yesterday. This time I didn’t have to wait before the first case was handed over. There were supposed to be only 2 new cases, both came quite early. In fact the first one was already there by the time I got to the clinic.

When the nurse mentioned the name of the guy for the first case, I thought the name sounded familiar. True enough, I had actually corresponded with the guy before. He had emailed me earlier seeking my advise after he was first diagnosed HIV+. He was then in Singapore, had to do a medical check-up to renew his work permit, and that was when he was found to be +ve. For a while he was lost as to what to do. He was to come back to Ipoh, but what next?

After a few exchanges of emails. he finally made an appointment with the doctor at the Ipoh ID clinic. And coincidentally, his appointment was yesterday, the day when I was on clinic duty. So when I mentioned my name, he recognised me immediately.

With the exception of a cousin who accompanied him to the hospital, none of this guy’s other family members know of his condition. What he needs right now is more of moral support, and so I assured him that I’d assign a buddy whom I think should be able to get along well with him.

The next case referred to me was a 50 year old lady, whose husband died a few months ago. She didn’t even know that he had HIV, until she got a copy of the death cert which indicated HIV as being the reason of his death. Hmmm… somehow something didn’t seem right. HIV is not supposed to be written as cause of death. But of course, the blessing was that because of that blunder (that HIV was written on the death cert), this lady went for tests herself, and she too was diagnosed to be hiv+ as well. In fact, her CD4 is considered quite low.

With her late husband never ever having an EPF and/or Socso contribution, there was nothing she could claim from the two. And she herself had only worked once for just a month or two. So how does she survive? 2 or her 3 children are working. The eldest, a son, 20, works in KL, earning just enough to survive for himself alone. Her second daughter, the one staying with her, is the one working and paying for her needs… including rental and utilities. The youngest, 14, is still in school. When we told her that we do have funds to help out with children’s schooling, she asked if we could help get financial assistance for herself. For the moment I can only think of welfare assistance for her.

With only 2 cases referred, and both were early for their appointments, I finished my clinic rather early as well. Later in the afternoon I went for 2 house visits. It has been quite a while since I visited any of my clients at home, and this time I brought along a trainee volunteer as I wanted her to take over these cases. I already have too many cases in my hands and so the plan is to pass the less problematic ones to other volunteers so I can concentrate on the ones really needing more attention.

First up was Fuzi’s house. Fuzi did call me earlier to tell me that her hiv+ son, Ijam, had a broken arm from an accident. I couldn’t visit earlier as I had to spend more time at home to take care of my own mother, and since I had the time to spare yesterday, I decided to visit them and introduce them to the trainee volunteer. Anyway, the volunteer and this family had already met during our Family Day earlier this year, so it was more of introducing Fuzi to her new buddy. Fuzi is not really the type who’d “cling” on to the same buddy, so I think there shouldn’t be any problem with the “handover”. Besides, Fuzi can still call me if need be.

Next up, Aini’s house. I knew Aini wasn’t home, but last Saturday, her eldest daughter, now in form 6, sent me a text message saying she received an offer letter from MOSTI to take up a diploma course, and sought my opinion if she should accept the offer. It was rather difficult for me to advise without even looking at the letter, what more when I asked for details, things didn’t seem very clear. For one thing, the letter didn’t specify what course was offered to this girl, it just mentioned the list of courses available. I looked up MOSTI’s website, nothing was mentioned about any courses being offered, and so I figured I might as well have a look at the letter before I give her any advise.

The letter looked legitimate. With MOSTI’s logo and the government’s official logo at the letterhead, and logos of MARA, MOHE and Technology Park Malaysia as joint partners of the programme. There were a few things that made me suspicious although I didn’t want to advise the girl against accepting the offer unless I could be very sure. I mean, it could be a legitimate offer and this girl could miss a good chance to do something she likes (Diploma in Tourism was mentioned as one of the courses offered). So I told her to just go for the briefing or whatever but enquire first before paying any registration fee. Meanwhile I also took a snapshot of the letter, to enquire anyone in the know. A friend did say she knew people in MOSTI, so I was thinking of seeking her help to find out if the offer was legitimate, or it was just a private college making use of MOSTI’s and other agencies’ names to trick unsuspecting students & parents to sign up with them.

There were a few things I was rather suspicious about:

1. MOSTI is not known (at least not that I know of) to offer diploma courses. Definitely not Tourism.

2. The offer letter did not specify what course was offered, instead just a list of courses that the students could choose from.

3. The numbers given to be called by those who chose to accept the offer were all mobile numbers, no fixed line.

4. Registration is to be held at a community hall, not at a college or anywhere with a permanent office. And the students are supposed to be paying RM300 registration fee.

So yes, enquiries were made, and I finally got to speak with a MOSTI officer who said that MOSTI never issues such letters, offering students to take up any courses whatsoever with them. She advised that the girl do not accept the offer, and she also asked for the phone numbers stated in the letter, which I gladly gave to her.

And yes, after that call, I immediately advised Aini’s daughter NOT to accept the offer. Thank goodness she decided to seek my advise before making any decision. If it was up to her, she was really keen to take up tourism (which she didn’t qualify to apply for earlier because she got a D for maths whereas the minimum requirement is a C for maths).

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Shimah’s dilemma

Shimah texted me again yesterday. Although earlier on she felt relieved when told her blood test results came out negative, she started worrying again when told she should come back for another test in 6 months time.

We had been exchanging messages regarding this matter. She couldn’t quite understand the “window period”. I had to be frank and asked her when was the last time she had sex with her husband. I knew she wanted me to confirm that she is confirmed to be negative in the next test, but with the 6 months window period not over yet during the recent test, I dared not say so for sure.

This morning I called her up. I figured she probably needed to talk things out. True enough, after a while she started pouring out whatever she had been keeping inside of her. It was not just her worries about the infection that had been bothering her. Apparently she had been thinking about divorce for some time already – not because of Roslan’s HIV, but because of his attitude.

Dah banyak kali dia buat hal, kak. Lepas satu, satu… tak pernah serik.”

She did ask him to divorce her about 2 years ago, but Roslan simply refused to let her go. Even after the accident and he became handicapped (he is now permanently using crutches), he didn’t even attempt to change. During the last clinic duty when I met both of them, Roslan somehow was in denial as to how he got infected. He said while he did sleep with a few women before he got married, based on his condition he believed it was the blood transfusion he had that caused the infection.

This morning when I spoke to Shimah (Roslan wasn’t home then as he went to visit his father), I found out that Roslan too had secretly been an injecting drug user as well. And both their sons hate him because he had always been a bad-tempered person, and they also dislike the way he had been treating their mother.

According to Shimah, the only reason she is still staying on in the marriage is her children. She’s still together with Roslan for her children’s sake. But at the same time, she also told me that her older son, now 20 and already working, had actually been telling her to file for divorce. The younger son left it all to his mother to decide.

Shimah herself, although has lost all feelings of love for Roslan after all that he had done, still has some pity for him, especially in his present condition, being handicapped after the accident. But at times she does get fed-up with his attitude which hasn’t changed at all even after the accident.

 

I told Shimah she has the right to file for divorce even if Roslan refuses to let her go. However, I reminded her that the decision has to be hers, and not because someone else tells her so.

Guess we’ll just have to wait and see her next course of action…

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Mixed emotions…

When I was on clinic duty 2 weeks ago, I met a couple – the husband, Roslan, on crutches, had been confirmed HIV+ and whose CD4 was already very low; and the wife, Shimah, yet to be tested.

While Roslan was rather calm and had somewhat accepted the fact that he has to live with HIV for the rest of his life, Shimah on the other hand, looked rather depressed. She was quiet most of the time when I spoke to Roslan asking about the wellbeing of the family. When I finally turned to Shimah to ask if she had been tested, she was on the verge of breaking down.

With tears flowing, she kept asking “Kenapa saya?” Although she had not been tested yet, she was convinced that she was surely already infected. I kept telling her that she was not necessarily infected and we wouldn’t know for sure until blood tests are done. But at the same time, I also had to prepare her in case she was indeed infected. I did tell her to call me anytime in case she needed to talk to someone about it.

Yesterday I was on clinic duty again. Since there weren’t any cases referred, I decided to call Shimah to find out how she was doing. This time her tone of voice sounded happier. The test done showed that she was negative, alhamdulillah. She told me how relieved she was when the news was conveyed to her. She also told me how hard she prayed after the last time we met. She definitely talked a whole lot more this time. I just reminded her to to take the necessary precautions to avoid transmission of the virus from her husband to herself.

Then this morning I received a text message from her, telling me she was scared because her husband’s blood stains were on the bed sheet and although she had soaked the bed sheet in hot water, she didn’t dare touch the bed sheet in case the virus was still there.

I suppose when she said earlier that she fully understood how the virus spreads, she didn’t really understand… but I guess being in her condition, and not well educated, I can understand her concerns. Just give her some time to fully understand everything.

Friday, 21 September 2012

This and that…

When Hana told me during last week’s Raya event that her daughter would need to come to Ipoh GH for an appointment at the heart clinic, I told her to call me when she gets here. She was concerned because the letter mentioned that she’d have to pay RM100 deposit. She was also told to bring along some AA batteries to be used for whatever equipment her daughter was supposed to use. I didn’t quite understand whatever procedure her daughter needed to go through and why she needed to pay the RM100 deposit. As far as I knew, as long as she could produce a letter from the daughter’s school to confirm that the girl is indeed a student of a government school, then she shouldn’t be worrying about any payment. So I told Hana to call me if she needed any help.
I then totally forgot about it until Hana called me yesterday afternoon and mentioned that she had just arrived at the hospital. Lucky I was free to run off for a while to see her, so off I went to the hospital. By the time I arrived, the daughter had gone in while Hana herself was waiting outside. If I were Hana, I would have probably gone in to get a clearer picture of whatever procedure her daughter had to do. But that’s Hana, she has to be told what to do.
After about half an hour or so, the girl came out. All done she said. She was given a small gadget the size of a credit card for her to use for one week, after which the gadget will have to be returned to the hospital. Ahh, so that’s why there was a need for deposit… to make sure the item is returned. Once the item is returned, Hana will get back the deposit. But apparently, Hana didn’t have to pay any deposit, neither was there any need for the AA batteries that she brought along. So no worries at all. Hana will just have to come back to the hospital after a week to return the item.
This morning SN called me from the HIV Clinic. She wanted to find out if I could find a PLHIV willing to share his/her experience with the participants of a seminar they’d be organising in early October. Coincidentally, during my last clinic duty I met up with a PLHIV who is very open and had indicated his willingness to share his own experiences with the public. So yes, I immediately called him up and he agreed. One matter settled.
SN also asked if we’d mind joining up with them in an HIV/AIDS exhibition at the hospital in December this year in conjunction with this year’s World AIDS Day. Oooh, as the Malay saying goes… pucuk dicita ulam mendatang. We don’t seem to have the manpower to organise such exhibitions by ourselves, so whenever we get such invitations, we don’t normailly turn them down.
The last time we organised something for World Aids Day was in 2009 when we had an awareness campaign at an Orang Asli village. Finally this year we can join up with the ID clinic to organise something.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

The Raya Event

We had a Raya event on Saturday – organised by my school alumni, and the special guests are the PLHIV families under Buddies wing. There’d be too many if I were to invite all our clients, so I ended up inviting only the ones getting help from our Children Education Fund and Education Sponsorship Programme. All in all, 12 families agreed to come, with 27 children altogether.

The actual turnout? More than 100% attendance. No pullouts whatsoever, in fact one family came with extra baggage. Fuzi, who already had 5 children of her own, told me, “Kak, ada anak kawan 2 orang ikut, boleh ke kak?” If she had asked me earlier I would have said no, but by the time she sought my permission, they were already at the bus station when I fetched them. I couldn’t possibly say no and tell the 2 kids to go home, could I? But next time when I invite her for any events, I’d better remind her that the event is only for our clients and family members only, not any others.

All the families who needed transport from the bus station to the hotel were told to be there by 2.30 pm. By the time I got there at 2.30 pm, all of them were already there. Yayy, they were all punctual! The Raya event too ran smoothly. Things were rather informal, with just a welcome speech, followed by entertainment by a balloonist while the guests were enjoying their meal. We just went around, chit chatting with each other, and the few school alumni members who attended also took the opportunity to talk to the PLHIV families and got to know some of their plight.

Before the programme ended, all of them were given some duit raya… the children given a smaller amount, while the heads of each family were given a bigger amount.

For me, I took the opportunity to find out their latest happenings…

From Sofie’s children, Ika and Saiful, I found out that their brother (the one who went to the culinary school) didn’t bother to meet them on Hari Raya. He did go to his mother’s grave to see Aunt Rozi, their new guardian, to apologise to her, but he didn’t bother to see his own siblings at home. He instead went to the home of his other aunt (the aunt who been badmouthing Sofie when she was still alive) and told them that he had been shunned by his Aunt Rozi and his own siblings. Duh! He was the one who didn’t bother to go home to see them, probably felt guilty when his Aunt Rozi just kept quiet when he apologised, and then he tells people he is being shunned by his family. Duh!

From Hana, I found out that her 2nd daughter has heart problems, and is due to undergo some tests at the hospital next week. She showed me the letter saying she’d need to pay a deposit of RM100. OK, I probably need to get her some help here.

Fuzi told me that her HIV infected son, Ijam, will be doing his circumcision at the hospital during the next school holidays. The paed at HRPB had kindly helped make the arrangements for the boy. The good doc even told her that no payment is required.

Laila, Shila’s daughter, just completed her UPSR and seemed happy. The girl came with her grandma. According to the grandma, Laila had shown improvement in her studies and her class teacher even told her to fill in the form to be considered for boarding school next year.

The rest? Nothing out of the ordinary. But I do know they went home happy after the Raya event. Thank you to the organisers who sponsored these families…

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Today’s cases…

I was on clinic duty again today. This time alone because the trainee volunteer who was supposed to be on duty with me had office matters to attend to. But I am already used to being on clinic duty alone, even in Taiping, so it wasn’t a problem at all.

The moment I went in the doctor’s room, the nurse told me there were 2 new cases today and both of them were already there. So yep, no waiting for me today. Off I went to the support service room and within just minutes, the nurse came in with the first case.

A big-sized guy came in, alone. Looking through his file, I noticed he has a wife. “You punya bini sudah tau ka belum?” I asked. “Belum. Nanti la bila-bila saya bagitau…” he replied. I told him the importance of telling his wife so she can get tested as well. He then said he knew about his HIV infection since 2010 but didn’t go for any follow up. Wow, for the past 2 years he knew he had HIV, yet he never told his wife? As a matter of fact, when I kept advising him to inform his wife, he told me about how some time last year, his wife did a full blood test and she was found to be HIV-negative. Duh! I hope he wasn’t using that as an excuse not to tell his wife NOW. Whatever it is, I believe the doctor and nurses too will be pestering him to get his wife tested…

After a while, the staff nurse herself came into the room to refer the next case to me. A couple came in, the guy using crutches, accompanied by his wife. The guy had been tested positive for HIV after he was hospitalised recently for lung infection. The wife had yet to be tested but at least she’s fully aware of her husband’s condition and based on what was written in the file, she was due to do her blood test today.

The guy looked calm. He admitted he used to “main perempuan” when he was much younger before he got married, but he claimed he must have got HIV during a blood transfusion 10 years ago after an accident (the reason he’s using crutches now).

The couple has 2 children, one almost 20 and is working now. The younger one, 16,  is still in school. Since the guy lives on his Socso and welfare aid, I thought the schooling child may need educational help. But the guy admitted his son has been getting financial assistance from various sources for his schooling. At least he’s honest, unlike some people I know who’d take advantage of any form of financial assistance offered, despite getting help from various other sources. The older son, was offered to a place in IKM after form 5, but decided to turn down the offer. With his father’s condition after the accident, and his mother not working to take care of the father, this boy decided to work so he could help his family financially by working. In fact, while he was still schooling, he brought nasi lemak made by his mother to school and sold them to his friends. Wow! I truly respect this boy’s sense of responsibility. Despite himself having to work immediately after he finished schooling, he is giving encouragement to his younger brother to study hard so he can further his studies after SPM. I like this boy already!

When I turned my attention to wife, she started crying. She’s afraid to get tested. I told her that whatever the outcome of the blood test, positive or not, she will have to accept because there is no way she can turn back the clock. She must now think of the future, not the past. “Tapi kenapa saya?” she asked as though she is already confirmed positive.

Guess she will need some time to swallow everything in. I will have to follow up on her later.

Those were the 2 cases referred by the Ipoh ID clinic today. I finished quite early by about 11.15 or so. But I couldn’t go hack yet as I had promised to meet up with a PLHIV who called me earlier, interested to join Buddies, either as a client or a volunteer. He stays in Perak but does his follow up in Sg Buloh, which was why his case was never referred to us before despite being on treatment for a number of years already. He was hoping to find fellow PLHIV in his town so he could form a group and they could meet from time to time to give support to each other. But although he knew of a few PLHIV in his town, they don’t seem to want to meet up. Which was why he finally decided to join Buddies. He said he’s getting bored doing nothing at home, and so he might as well do something useful like helping out fellow PLHIV.

What I like is the fact that he is willing to open up and share his experience with the public. He said if the PLHIV themselves don’t speak up, then people will never understand them. Great, now if we get invited for talks or the likes, we probably can rope him in to share his own experiences in dealing with HIV – such experience sharing will probably leave a greater impact on the audience.

We will take him in as a client first, then later on, after assessing him, we may pull him in as a volunteer.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Raya over, back to work!

Hmmm… 2 weeks since my last blog posting. I’ve been taking a longer than usual Raya break haven’t I?

Well, not really. It’s just the blog that I have not been updating, but I have been in touch with my PLHIV clients especially inviting the single mothers and children to a Raya event sponsored by my school alumni this coming mid-September. However, I did indeed take a break from home and hospital visits. There were so many things to do at my own home!

Anyway, based on an earlier list given, HIV clinic in Taiping was supposed to be on yesterday, and since it was my turn, yesterday I drove all the way to Taiping, only to find out that HIV clinic for yesterday had been cancelled since before Raya. But nobody bothered to inform us Buddies… sigh…

Today, Wednesday, I was on duty again, this time in Ipoh. When I got to the doctor’s room, the nurse told me there were supposed to be 4 new cases. 2 were already there, but one of them, a Thai lady spoke neither Malay nor English, but apparently her husband could speak Malay. After looking at the file, I knew I had already met them both during my last clinic duty. At that time it was the husband who was referred to us, the wife had yet to be tested. So I told the nurse there was no need to refer that case to me as I had already met them.

So the first case was referred to me. When the nurse brought her to the counselling room, I thought this was another case of an elderly lady. But then when I got the file, I noticed that the lady, Selvi, was actually my age, in fact she’s one week younger. So, does that mean I look younger or does that mean I am also an elderly lady???? :P

Selvi was infected by her late husband. She had actually known of her HIV infection since 2004 when she got involved in a road accident and was in coma for some time. They never went for HIV treatment after that because her husband was the type who wasn’t bothered. She now no longer works, and survives on Socso pension. She used to work at a factory before the accident. When asked if her late husband used to work, she said, “Dia banyak curi sini, curi sana la…”

They didn’t have any children of their own, but Selvi did adopt a child, now 8 years old. Based on what Selvi gets from Socso, she and her adopted daughter should be able to survive. She doesn’t have to pay rental as she had finished paying for the house using her EPF money. Only problem is, Selvi, who is a diabetic, has some eye problems as well and is due for an operation, which has not been done yet because of her HIV. That was how her case was finally referred to the HIV clinic just recently ie by the ophthalmologist.

Since her vision is quite bad, whenever she needed to go anywhere, she couldn’t take the bus. She had to hire a cab, and whenever she needs to come to Ipoh for her appointments, she’d have to fork out RM70 just for transportation alone. I told Selvi we should be able to help out with her child’s schooling needs. She then started to ask if we could cover her transportation to the hospital as well. While I did listen to her problems, at the end of the conversation I reminded her that she needs to be thankful with what she has. I told her about the other families I have been dealing with… who earn half of what she gets monthly and have 3 or 4 more mouths to feed. Then only she said, “Ya, ya you orang mau tolong saya punya anak punya sekolah pun saya sudah suka…

I guess some people tend to forget that there are so many people out there who are worse off than they are…

While I was waiting for other cases to be referred, suddenly I saw Shidah passing by. Remember Shidah? She’s the lady from a foreign country up north whose late husband used to abuse her when he was alive. After her husband’s death, I thought things would be easier for her so she could just go back to her own country and be with her child from an earlier marriage. Apparently I was wrong. For one thing, she herself wanted to continue staying in Malaysia. In addition, even her in-laws wanted her to stay with them, for their own selfish reasons.

Selfish reasons? Shidah’s husband had a job when he was alive… with EPF and Socso. They needed her as the widow to claim whatever necessary. As it turned out, Shidah has been getting the monthly payment from Socso (her in-laws aren’t too happy about this) but according to Shidah, her in-laws managed to get every single sen from his EPF account. I told Shidah she shouldn’t be too selfish herself. She did mention to me before that if she goes back to her country, she will lose her right to the Socso pension. I told her, while she herself has some rights over her late husband’s properties, his mother too had rights and so does his brother/s since they didn’t have any children together.

Today when I met Shidah, I was told she no longer stays with her in-laws. She has moved to another state nearer to the border, to join a friend doing some small business together. She came back to Ipoh just for her appointment. I told her she might as well transfer her appointment to a hospital near where she stays now so that she doesn’t have to travel so far each time she has to come for her appointment.

After Shidah left the room, in came Mas, another new client of mine. After the last time I met her, she was hospitalised because of a mild stroke (but I didn’t visit her at the hospital because I wasn’t told about it). She still looked weak when I saw her today, this time she came with her younger brother, who took leave from work to bring her to the hospital as she was too weak to come by bus. Mas plans to join the Raya event planned for mid-September… I do hope the brother will be able to send Mas and her children to the hotel for the event.

After some time, as I was starting to pack up thinking there wouldn’t be any more new cases, the junior nurse came in with another new case, Chan, a 22 year old guy. Quite a chatty young chap I must say. He even apologised for coming quite late. There was no doubt at all he’d be happy to have a buddy assigned to him. As a matter of fact, when I suggested to him that maybe he should join us as a volunteer, he welcomed the idea. Not only can he help others by doing so, he’d also end up helping himself. But before he himself becomes a volunteer, he will need to get himself to fully accept whatever that had been fated for him. By the looks of it, I think he should be able to get over the initial “shock” soon enough. All he needs is some moral support and someone to talk things out to. He now has a buddy for that…

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Last round pre-Raya visits

Like previous Ramadhans, this year quite a substantial amount of donations came in, to be distributed to the poor families I deal with. Some was even given to me before Ramadhan so that I could distribute the donations to the various families during the beginning of the month, either in cash, or, in some cases, I’d buy necessities and deliver them to their homes.

Ramadhan this year is coming to an end soon, yet I still do get some donations coming in, including a few Raya gifts (cookies/chocolates/cakes etc). And this being the final week of Ramadhan, I decided to go for a few visits to distribute the Raya gifts and money, while a few others, I just banked in some cash into their bank accounts so they could use the money for Raya.

The first I met yesterday was Wani, the one who sells Raya cookies and had for the past few years sought my help to get orders. Her children are under our sponsorship programme and her child’s sponsor had passed some money through me to be given to her. Wani had earlier promised to come to Ipoh in the morning to deliver the cookies, but she had some things to settle first and couldn’t make it then. When she found out that I’d be going to visit Fuzi in the afternoon, she asked if she could meet me at the town where Fuzi stays, since the town is located half way between Ipoh and the town where Wani stays.

So yes, we met up in front of a school in that town, she passed me the cookies, I passed her some money (to pay for the cookies and also the money from her child’s sponsor), invited her and her children to a sponsored Raya event in mid-Sept, hug hug, wish each other Selamat Hari Raya and off we went separate ways. She, back home, while I headed to Fuzi’s house.

I didn’t warn Fuzi I was coming, though. So when I honked, it was her youngest boy, 6 year old Iwan, who opened the door and upon seeing my car, shouted to his mom at the top of his voice, “MAMA!! MAKCIK FIZAH DATANG!!!”

Fuzi was actually on the phone. Apparently she had totally forgotten that she was supposed to bring her son Ijam to Ipoh GH for his appointment (note: Ijam is HIV positive), and so the doctor called her to find out what happened to the boy. I must commend that doctor, he’d go out of his way to make sure his paediatric patients get the necessary medical treatments.

Ijam was at school, the only children at home were Fuzi’s eldest, Wina, and the youngest boy, Iwan, who was happily showing off to me a RM10 note. “Budak-budak ni dah mula dapat duit raya, Kak. RM10 sini, RM10 sana… sekarang ni anak-anak yang sudah lebih kaya dari saya,” said Fuzi, laughing away. As I was about to leave, I took out 6 Raya packets from my bag, 5 smaller ones for Fuzi’s children, and 1 bigger one for Fuzi. When I told her about the Raya event, Fuzi immediately said yes. Her children always look forward to any events I invite them to, even if the event is held at the Buddies Centre. Surely her kids would be even more excited when they find out that this event will be held at a hotel.

From Fuzi’s house, I headed over to visit Sofie’s children, Saiful and Ika. I had contacted their aunt at work, and she told me that the children would be home after 2 pm. And true enough, the moment I reached the house, both Saiful & Ika came out. They were expecting me. They told me that their eldest brother, Azlan, would be coming back on Friday. As for their other brother, Azman, he hadn’t even been calling them to ask how they’re doing. Ever since he joined the culinary school, he had been befriending sons/daughters of rich people, and had been spending like one too. He did as he pleased and didn’t show any respect at all to his aunt. Let’s see how long he can last that way… the way he had been spending, I’m not sure how long the money from his Tabung Kemahiran loan can last.

Anyway, both Saiful and Ika are excited about joining the Raya event at the hotel. Even if their aunt can’t go (she usually works on Saturdays), these 2 siblings have no problem coming along with me or any assigned volunteer fetching them.

This morning, I decided to make one last visit before declaring my own Raya leave… :)

Remember Laila, Shila’s daughter? Ever since Shila passed away last year a few days before Ramadhan, I had been liaising more with the girl’s grandma or aunt. When my phone went kaput during my Kinabalu trip last month, I lost their number. And so I didn’t inform them about my visit this morning. I wasn’t sure if Laila herself was at home, but I figured her grandma would be home at least.

True enough, when I got to their house, Laila was at school. Today was the last day for her UPSR trial exams. But both Laila’s grandma and aunt were home. I was happy when they told me that Laila had shown some progress in school. From the usual C’s, D’s and E’s she used to get, for the recent exam at school, the girl managed to score 5B’s. Her teacher was impressed with the improvement, and encouraged her to try improve her grades even further for her UPSR.

Laila’s grandma also agreed to bring Laila for the Raya event in mid-September, which is immediately after the UPSR exams… so the timing is just nice. Since I couldn’t meet Laila today, hopefully I can meet her then.

And so that wrapped up this year’s Ramadhan and pre-Raya visits. I hereby declare that I am now officially on leave until after Raya. It’s now me-and-my-family time! :)

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Checking on my clients…

When Imran met with an accident just a few days before our Family Day in early July, he had problems walking. His left foot was swollen, and even with the aid of a walking stick, he couldn’t walk without feeling excruciating pain. So he texted me to ask if I had any wheelchairs.

 

Coincidentally, earlier in April, Sofie needed a wheelchair, and a donor graciously gave some cash for me to buy a wheelchair for Sofie. But Sofie died before I could pass the wheelchair to her, and so the wheelchair was kept at our centre. It was initially bought for Sofie’s use, but turned out Imran became the first to use it.

When I checked on him last week by phone, at the same time to order some putu kacang from his wife who made them herself to earn extra income for the family, I was told he no longer needed the wheelchair. So when I went to visit them on Tuesday, my visit was not only to get my putu kacang orders, but also to get the wheelchair and send it to back to our centre.

The house was full of boxes of cookies and kerepeks when I got there. The wife was enterprising enough to rent a space at a supermarket to sell all those stuff. Imran looked a whole lot better, but still couldn’t walk too far without the use of a walking stick. If he walked around too much, the swelling would start again. But at least his condition wasn’t as bad as when I went to visit them to send the wheelchair earlier.

After visiting Imran’s family, I figured I might as well go visit Lin, since she stays in the same town. I had not gone to visit her for quite some time already. This time it had to be a “surprise” visit. Remember my handphone’s screen had a slight crack when I went to Kinabalu? Because of that I wasn’t able to read anything on my phone screen… which meant I couldn’t see whatever info was stored in the phone. I couldn’t get Lin’s number from the first contact report we have at the centre because she had changed her phone number since then. And so I couldn’t call Lin prior to the visit. Guess I just had to try my luck and hope that somebody would be home.

When I got to her house, her daughter’s car was outside, the glass door was open, just the grill door locked. And I could hear the TV was on. Yes, somebody was home! The moment I gave the salam, it was Lin who answered. She didn’t hear my car, neither did she hear me opening the gate. And yes, she was surprised to see me because I didn’t call prior to my visit.

“Alamak, rumah tengah semak, kak!”

Lin does tailoring work at home to earn an income. With Raya coming soon, she needed to complete her work as soon as possible. And her youngest daughter was already making noise that Lin hadn’t even started anything on the daughter’s baju kurung.

When I first handled Lin’s case, all Lin’s children were still studying and Lin was without any job. Life was tough. Her ex-hubby (Mr Darling, if you can recall) was never on time with the alimony determined by the court, and Lin couldn’t depend on him to support the children. She resorted to selling fried bananas at a friend’s stall, until one day that friend decided to sell fried bananas himself and came up with all sorts of excuses not to let her continue selling there.

Lin then attended a short sewing course at Giat Mara. Immediately after completing the course, she started taking orders for baju kurung and curtains. And that was how she survived until now. While we Buddies do come in to assist in her children’s educational needs, life was still tough for the family.

Now 2 of her children, her 1st & 3rd, both girls, have obtained their diplomas, and are already working. Yes, they even have a car now so easier for them if they needed to go anywhere. Her second daughter has another year to go before she completes her degree. God willing, by next year they will have a doctor in the family. Lin still has 2 schooling children, in form 3 and form 5 this year, but life has already improved for the family, financially. I used to visit them on a monthly basis. But now that their lives have improved, I concentrate on other needy families. Of course, a visit to Lin’s home from time to time is good to boost up my spirit to help others. A real life example of how the little help given could make a huge difference in their lives. Provided of course, that the recipients of the help given, work hard themselves.

After visiting Lin, I decided to check on 2 new clients I had just recently been assigned to. Nope, no visits, yet. We never visit without their permission, and so the first step would be to call them first. One of them, a single mother with 2 schooling children, seemed very receptive, and emotionally stable. The other, a single woman about my age, sounded rather depressed. It had never been easy gaining the trust of newly assigned clients, but somehow, after a few minutes, this lady asked if she could meet up with me. I guess she really needs someone to talk to.

So yes, we promised to meet up next week when she goes for her next appointment at the hospital. Visiting her at home is a NO because she’s renting a room at a house together with a few other ladies.

 

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Less complicated cases?

Being the volunteer with the most number of clients, I don’t usually get assigned to new clients by my colleagues on clinic duty unless they really couldn’t think of anyone else for the particular client. However, of late I’ve been getting new clients… one by one… mainly Malay ladies including those over 50 years of age.

Yes, I used to get clients who are younger than me, some even young enough to be my daughter. But now the younger ones would be passed to my younger colleagues (unless they are pregnant, for whatever reason, usually I get assigned to the pregnant cases!), while the older ones get passed to me. Ehem… I wonder what that implies…

Anyway, I remember quite a number of the earlier cases passed to me were rather complicated and full of drama. Had I seen their stories on TV, I would have probably thought they were ridiculous and illogical. But after being exposed to the lives of the families I deal with, I found out that the ridiculous and illogical stories are ACTUALLY happening out there – some even worse than the stories on TV. Those who had been following my blog from the beginning would probably agree with me.

Stories like Lily’s, Lin’s, Yah’s (and Mr Darling), Zana’s… had lots of twists and turns. And not forgetting the “adventures” I had with my little Cek Mek… including sending her mom to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning to deliver the little girl!

 

But of late the cases I’m getting are not as “dramatic” as my earlier cases. Either that, or I’m getting too used to the dramatic cases, I don’t find them too dramatic anymore… ;-)

The cases I’ve been getting lately are mostly those of poor single mothers needing help for their children’s education, and of course needing some moral support as well. That shouldn’t be too much of a problem for me… I think…

Or am I speaking too soon?

 

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Updates here and there…

We’ve completed 6 days of fasting now. How time flies…

On the very first day of Ramadhan, I went to visit Zainab at her home. After texting her to ensure she wasn’t working that Saturday, off I went to visit after loading some groceries into my car. I’ve been getting quite a lot of cash contributions from my friends to be distributed to the poor families. Some of the cash I use to buy groceries, and so far I’ve delivered groceries to Fuzi, Aini and this time, Zainab. The rest who stays quite far from Ipoh, I’d transfer some of the cash contributions into their respective bank accounts.

Anyway, for the moment both Zainab and her husband Zaki cannot fast, as advised by the doctor. Their 2 young daughters however, were fasting and so they all still had to get up for sahur.

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After an absence of 3 weeks from clinic duty, on 25th July I was back on duty. When I arrived at the clinic and checked with the nurses if there were any new cases that day, I was told there were supposed to be 3 new cases but none of them were there yet. Nearing 11 am, as I was about to give up waiting, finally the nurse came to refer one case. A young chap came in with his father, who didn’t speak much Malay, so I ended up speaking only to the son. He didn’t seem interested at all to have a buddy, all he wanted to know was his blood test results.

The next case referred was a 60 year old guy. He came in with a young lady, who looked more like his daughter. Just to be safe, I just asked him who the lady was, and was told that the lady was his wife. She didn’t speak at all… the only language she speaks other than Thai is Cantonese. Apparently they got married about 10 years ago but only got it officially registered about a month ago. After a while, when I showed him our brochure and told him to call us if need be, he said, “Ya, ya, ya… itu hari saya punya kakak talipon sama you. Dia cakap sama saya, jangan takut sama you. You banyak baik punya orang.”

Ah, so this was the brother of the lady who called me a few weeks ago, seeking help and advice for her brother (at first she said “friend”, but after getting a bit more comfortable talking to me, she finally admitted she was talking about her brother, not friend). All I did was just give her some hope that it’s not too late for her brother to seek treatment, and I also taught her how to go about getting an appointment. This guy seemed to be getting family support, so he should be doing okay as long as he is compliant.

The third and final case, a 56 year old lady. She was infected by her 2nd husband who died about 1 1/2 years ago. After 4 children with her first husband, the husband died and this lady, Mimah, remarried a young chap, an ex-IVDU. She was already 40 then, and he, 25. He was diagnosed HIV+ just a few weeks before his death. What I couldn’t understand was, despite knowing that the guy had HIV, why it took more than a year to set an appointment for Mimah herself. She should have done her blood tests immediately, and get treatment immediately. Ah well, at least she is seeking treatment now.

Never having any working experience before, things weren’t easy for Mimah after her husband died. With a house rental of RM300, and the only fixed sources of income coming only from the Welfare Dept and Socso (her late husband’s socso), Mizah now resorts to selling kuih by the road side for some extra income for her family. While 3 of her children from her first husband are already working and staying elsewhere, Mizah still has to support 3 other schooling children, the youngest son with her first husband, and her 2 children with her second husband.

Looks like we need to consider this family for our Children Education Fund.

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Azman, Sofie’s son who’s studying at a culinary school, called me yesterday, saying his college was organising something and he needed some money to buy the required stuff. His Tabung Kemahiran loan had just been released about 2 weeks ago. Since I was holding his ATM card for the bank where the loan is credited to, I immediately transferred an amount into his other bank account for this month’s allowances. Less than 2 weeks and he finished his allowance??

When I asked him what he did with the money, he said he bought some “necessities” – shoes and slacks. When I asked him how much he paid for the shoes, he didn’t dare answer. He only said that the shoes were a bit expensive. Until the end he never mentioned how much he paid. Must have been so expensive.

So this morning I went to see him at his hostel. He was smiling when he walked over to my car. He was still smiling when I told him that at the rate he had been spending, whatever amount that had been credited into his bank account, would only last a maximum of 2 months.

Then he looked confused when I handed him his ATM card. He must be thinking, why on earth would I hand over the card to him after he bought all the expensive stuff. I told him that now he has to take responsibility for his actions, and that includes managing his own money.

He was about to ask me what if he ran out of money, when I just told him straight in the face that he now has to pay for his hostel fees, food/drinks etc. I told him he could spend as he liked, but at the same time I also told him not to come looking for me. I told him there are so many unfortunate children out there needing my attention and so I wouldn’t be entertaining any more of his calls.

The boy was stunned. He didn’t expect that coming from me I suppose. He just looked down, trying to control his tears. He didn’t even take the card from me, I had to put the card into the bag of stuff that I had brought along for him. There was total silence. He only moved from the car after I told him I was in a hurry and needed to go elsewhere. He apologised to me. I didn’t say a thing after that. I just drove off.

Let’s see if I managed to knock some sense into him…

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The visits/deliveries begin…

After the Buddies Family Day on 1st July, I was rather busy with my preparations for my Kinabalu attempt. Other than emailing photos of the Family Day to clients whose children has email accounts, all other activities had to be put on hold temporarily.

Then during the first phase of the climb from Mesilau to Laban Rata, I accidentally sat on my handphone, causing a small crack on its screen. As a result, I wasn’t able to read anything on the screen. While I could still receive and make calls (provided I remember the recipient’s phone number), I could not retrieve the phone numbers stored in that phone.

One of the first few things I did after I got home was to get myself a new phone. That wasn’t much of a problem. I could easily get the numbers of family members. I could get the phone numbers of friends either via email or facebook. That wasn’t much of a problem either. The hardest part was to get the phone numbers of my clients! I had to go to the center and retrieve their numbers from the first contact reports. But not all the numbers could be retrieved from there. Some of them change phone numbers as often as they change their clothes (ah ok, so I exaggerate), and their latest number had been saved in that old phone that I sat on.

I guess for those whose numbers I still can’t retrieve from anywhere, I will just have to wait for the clients to call/text me. They’d usually contact me when they need my help.

Anyway, donations from friends to be distributed to the poor families for Ramadhan have started coming in. I have started shopping for groceries and today I started with my visits/deliveries.

My first destination was Fuzi’s house. I called first to make sure she was home (Fuzi is one of the few who never changed her phone number, and so I could easily retrieve her number from our files). Fuzi and her youngest boy Iwan came out to greet me when I arrived at their house. I told Fuzi to help me get the stuff out of my car… Iwan wanted to help but all the stuff were rather heavy.

Good thing Fuzi’s eldest daughter was home. I knew she had a netbook computer that she got from her school last year, and so I asked her for the netbook so I could copy photos of the Family Day from my thumb drive to the hard disk of her netbook. Saves me the headache of having to choose which photos to print for them.

After Fuzi’s house, I headed over to Aini’s house. I could not retrieve Aini’s phone number from anywhere and so I just took my chances. Most of the time Aini would be home anyway. And if she was home, it would be a good chance for me to get hold of her phone number to be stored in my new phone.

I was relieved to see the front door open when I arrived at Aini’s house. Aini was having a nap in front of the TV. Her eldest daughter, who just got back from school (she’s in form 6), was getting ready to go for work. She used to work every day while waiting for her SPM results, and now that she’s continuing her studies in form 6, she works 3 days a week. She needed the money to pay for her broadband, which she needs to use to do her school work.

Aini herself still limps when she walks, but her health has improved a lot. And one good thing she’s happy about is that for her HAART, the doctor has given her the once-a-day ARV drug instead of the ones which had to be taken every 12 hours. And why is she so happy about it? Because now that she only needs to take her ARV once a day, she takes hers at 11 pm and that means this year she can fast!

I’ve got a few more families, including new clients, to visit either before or during Ramadhan. Based on the donations that have been coming in, there should be enough to go around…